Physics and astronomy

Introduction to Astrophysics

Module code: F3237
Level 4
15 credits in autumn teaching
Teaching method: Lecture, Workshop, Class
Assessment modes: Unseen examination, Coursework

This module aims to explain the contents, dimensions and history of the Universe, primarily at a descriptive level. It applies basic physical laws to the study of the Universe, enabling simple calculations. This module also includes an introduction to special relativity, which is shared with the Introduction to Modern Physics module. This module covers:

  • A brief history of astronomy
  • The scale of the universe
  • Time and motion in the universe
  • Planets, asteroids and comets
  • Stars: their birth and death
  • The Milky Way and our place within it
  • Nebulae
  • Galaxies: types, distance, formation, structure
  • Cosmology: dynamics of the universe, the Big Bang, the cosmic microwave background
  • Relativity: Historical perspective
  • Inertial frames and transformations; Newton's laws in inertial frames
  • Michelson-Morley experiment – observed constancy of speed of light. Einstein's assumptions
  • Lorentz-Einstein transformations; Minkowski diagrams; Lorentz contraction; time dilation
  • Transformation of velocities – stellar aberration. Variation of mass, mass-energy equivalence
  • Lorentz transformations for momentum and energy.

Module learning outcomes

  • A broad but qualitative knowledge of the contents of the Universe.
  • An understanding of some of the physical processes at work in the Universe.
  • The ability to apply basic theories and concepts to these processes, and make mathematical calculations based on them.
  • Apply relativistic principles and/or conservation and invariance properties to solve simple problems of special relativity. (Assessed by: Coursework)